Today’s newsletter article is dedicated to Randy Poffo, who passed away this afternoon after suffering a heart attack while driving. I had the pleasure of managing Poffo while we were in Jupiter with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. I always knew he had what it takes to be a professional athlete at the highest level. Randy, this one is for you.
I’ve been around this game for a long time and if I’ve learned anything it’s that you have to have played the game to know the game. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to go a single day without seeing some personality on television or reading a writer in a newspaper or magazine, who has never played a single inning of baseball, going on about his or her power rankings. Believe me, I know all about these types. I subscribe to both ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated and I watch a lot of baseball on TV.
You wouldn’t ask an American about fortune cookies, or a vegetarian about the benefits of charcoal grills versus propane. So, why would you give pay any mind at all to what someone who hasn’t played the game has to say about baseball?
Back when I was a bench coach with the Lafayette Drillers, we had several members of the local media trying to tell us how to manage our players. They all wanted a fella named Joey Martin to get more at bats. The thing about Joey was that he didn’t have the right makeup to be a baseball player. He was too timid to swing the bat and ended up taking a lot of walks. That’s not the kind of player you want up to bat with the game on the line.
Reporters don’t recognize these things, and that’s why it’s best to leave power rankings to those that really know the game. And that’s why it’s my pleasure to bring you real power rankings from a real former player.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
I don’t like to look at the numbers a whole lot because baseball isn’t about mathematics. I only take statistics seriously when they match my own perceptions. Guess what? The St. Louis Cardinals lead the league in two of the game’s most important categories: RBIs and batting average. Coincidence? I think not. Tony LaRussa is a genius. And in geniuses I trust.
2. New York Yankees
A lot of people are criticizing the Yankees because of how old their best players are. Yes, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and even Alex Rodriguez are probably a year or two past their prime. However, there’s an old adage that youth may win you a couple games, but experience wins championships. Their experience will take them all the way to the World Series, just like the last few years.
3. Boston Red Sox
It’s not a coincidence that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees get a lot of media attention. They’re two of the best teams. The Red Sox saw a hole in their starting rotation after John Lackey went down to injury, and what did they do? They went out and got the best, most experienced starting pitcher available: Kevin Millwood. This is how a team stays at the top.
4. San Francisco Giants
I don’t care much for the lifestyle choices of the people of San Francisco, but their baseball team is comprised of some of the best characters in baseball. Take Aubrey Huff for instance. Is there a more versatile player playing today. The slugger can play first base, right field and now there’s even talk of him playing third base. He’s incredible.
5. Texas Rangers
Ron Washington, who was an incredible athlete during his playing days, knows how to manage a team. It’s that simple. Don’t believe me? Did you not pay attention to last year’s playoffs when he’d show enormous patience in deploying his team’s best weapon Neftali Feliz, waiting until the most important moment of the game: the ninth inning? That’s patience, resolve and baseball intelligence. And that’s why the Rangers are so good. It only helps that their owned by a former baseball player.
6. Cleveland Indians
A lot of those who never played the game picked this team to finish dead last in the AL Central. Not me. I know that Manny Acta is a fiery competitor and there’s no way he’d let his boys fail. The Indians own the best record in baseball right now, and in the end, it’s all about how many wins you get. I don’t see any reason why they can’t continue the pace they’ve set for themselves.
7. Philadelphia Phillies
Veteran leadership on the mound. Veteran leadership in the lineup. And it’s only going to get better when the best player in baseball, Chase Utley, returns to the lineup. Guys who’ve never played the game don’t know what type of lift a great player returning from the Disabled List can give to the team. The Phillies already own the best record in the National League. The sky’s the limit.
8. Minnesota Twins
This team has gotten off to a slow start, but when you play baseball the right way, it’s only a matter of time until things get turned around. I think the team made a mistake in not forcing Justin Morneau into the lineup sooner because now he’s a bit rusty, but he’s still a great baseball player with tonnes of heart and grit. He’ll bounce back just like his team.
9. Atlanta Braves
Two words: Bobby Cox. The man is a genius.
10. Kansas City Royals
People who wouldn’t know a hot foot from a tricky dicky say that the Royals should be focusing on their future. I say their future is now. After ridding themselves of that head case pitcher, they put themselves on the right track by picking up proven leadership in Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera. They’re going to compete with the Indians right up to the final weekend of the season. Count on it.
The rest of the league goes like this:
11. California Angels
12. Los Angeles Dodgers
13. Chicago Cubs
14. Baltimore Orioles
15. New York Mets
16. Cincinnati Reds
17. Milwaukee Brewers
18. Pittsburgh Pirates
19. Detroit Tigers
20. Baltimore Orioles
21. Chicago White Sox
22. San Diego Padres
23. Houston Astros
24. New York Mets
25. Oakland A’s
Hunter Roscoe is a former Minor League Baseball player and coach. You can follow him on Twitter.